Striving to Build a Broader Support for the Nuclear Ban Treaty

By Ramesh Jaura

Photo: Dr. Daisaku Ikeda. Credit: Seikyo Shimbun.

BERLIN | TOKYO (IDN) – The second session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 NPT Review Conference in April and the UN High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament in May will draw the focus of the international community in the coming weeks as it moves toward paving the way for a nuclear-weapons free world.

Since the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted in July 2017, "these will be the first venues for debate and deliberation that will include both the nuclear-weapon and nuclear-dependent states," says eminent Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda, founder and President of Soka Gakkai International (SGI) with 12 million members in 192 countries and regions. [P 39] JAPANESE TEXT VERSON PDF 

Nine nuclear-weapons states which stayed away from TPNW negotiations in 2017 include the five permanent members of the Security Council – United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China – and four non-official members of the so-called 'nuclear club', India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel

Among others who avoided the negotiations were Japan and South Korea, which enjoy the U.S. nuclear umbrella as part of the security alliance, Australia, and 29 member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The only exception was the Netherlands, which however voted against the TPNW.

Yet, "adoption of the landmark TPNW represents a breakthrough in a field that has been marked by seemingly unbreakable impasse," says Ikeda in his 2018 Peace Proposal, 'Toward an Era of Human Rights: Building a People's Movement'.

"Moreover, the Treaty was realized with the strong support of civil society, including the survivors of nuclear weapons use, the hibakusha."

Their contribution in raising awareness about the need to prohibit nuclear weapons was recognized when the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the civil society coalition that has continued to strive for a Treaty-based prohibition of nuclear weapons.

2018 Peace Proposal is the 36th in a series of sagacious documents published annually since 1983, shining in particular because its main theme this year is that an integrated human rights focused approach is key to resolving global issues, including the nuclear threat.

With this in view, in this year that marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Ikeda stresses the need to make the life and dignity of each individual a focal point – the fact that every human being is inherently precious and irreplaceable.

At the same time, he welcomes the adoption of the TPNW, and urges "all participants in the coming discussions to engage in constructive debate toward the goal of a world free from nuclear weapons."

He expresses the hope that "world leaders will take the opportunity to commit to steps that their governments can take in the field of nuclear disarmament in advance of the NPT Review Conference" from April 23-May 4 in Geneva.

This would also be a prime opportunity to make public which among the seven 'acts' proscribed by the TPNW they might consider complying with, Ikeda adds. The ban on the transfer of nuclear weapons, for example, or on assisting other states acquire nuclear weapons are among the steps to which the nuclear-weapon states could agree within the context of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The SGI President argues: The efficacy of international law is enhanced by the mutual complementarity of so-called 'hard law' such as treaties and 'soft law' in forms such as UN General Assembly resolutions and international declarations.

In the field of disarmament, he adds, there is the example of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), in which states that have not yet ratified it enter into separate agreements to cooperate with the international monitoring system.

Ikeda is of the view that alongside efforts to win over additional signatories and ratifications for the Treaty, it would be worthwhile to secure voluntary commitments by non-parties to the TPNW to abide by specific injunctions the Treaty envisages, and encourage them include these in declarations of national policies.

To drive home the point, Ikeda says: "We must remember that the TPNW did not arise in isolation from the NPT. It was, after all, the 2010 NPT Review Conference that expressed – with the support of both the nuclear-weapon and nuclear-dependent states – a renewed awareness of the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons use, and it was this awareness that accelerated momentum for a prohibition treaty. The TPNW, for its part, gives concrete form to the nuclear disarmament obligations under Article VI of the NPT and promotes their good-faith fulfilment."

Against the backdrop of a lack of progress in nuclear arms reduction, ongoing modernization of nuclear arsenals and critical proliferation challenges, he adds, now is the time to seek synergies between strengthening the foundations of the NPT and the prohibition norm clearly enunciated by the TPNW.

Ikeda earnestly hopes that Japan will take the lead in enhancing conditions for progress in nuclear disarmament toward the 2020 NPT Review Conference. "Japan should use the opportunity of May's [May 14-16] High-Level Conference to stand at the forefront of nuclear-dependent states in declaring its readiness to consider becoming a party to the TPNW." Ikeda implores: "Having experienced the full horror of nuclear weapons, Japan cannot turn away from its moral responsibility."

The SGI President points out that the TPNW is imbued with the heartfelt desire of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that no country be targeted for nuclear attack and that no country ever decides to launch an atomic strike.

In this context, he refers to Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the atom bombing of Hiroshima, who described her feelings on the adoption of the Treaty as follows: "It has also convinced us that our continued discussion of our experiences, which are painful to remember, is the right thing to do and will never be in vain."

Ikeda recalls that at the first preparatory committee meeting for the 2020 NPT Review Conference May 2-12, 2017 in Vienna, the representative of Japan stressed: "The recognition of the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons underpins all approaches towards a world free of nuclear weapons."

Accordingly, Japan’s stance on this issue must always be grounded in the spirit the hibakusha have embodied – that no one else would ever experience the suffering they have had to endure, notes Ikeda.

He pleads for mobilising the growing solidarity of the civil society arguing that the significance of the Treaty lies in its comprehensive outlawing of all aspects of nuclear weapons.

The Treaty stipulates that, in addition to states that have yet to join, civil society will be invited to participate as observers in the biannual conference of the parties and the review conferences that are to be held every six years.

This, in Ikeda's view, is recognition of the importance of the role played by the world's hibakusha in particular and civil society as a whole in the adoption of the Treaty. At the same time, it evidences that the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons is indeed a shared global undertaking that requires the participation of all countries, international organizations and civil society.

Besides, the Preamble of the Treaty stresses the importance of peace and disarmament education. This was a point that SGI repeatedly stressed in civil society statements and working papers submitted during the TPNW negotiations.

The SGI President is convinced that "peace and disarmament education can ensure the intergenerational heritage of knowledge of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons."

Such knowledge and the education that promotes it build the foundation for the active implementation of the Treaty by all countries, he adds.

To support efforts to realize the early entry into force and universalization of the TPNW, SGI has early this year launched the second People’s Decade for Nuclear Abolition. This is intended to build on the work of the first Decade, which Ikeda suggested in a proposal released in August 2006 emphasising the need for reinvigorating the UN.

The Decade began in September 2007, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda’s declaration calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Ikeda is of the view that in order to promote the universality of the TPNW, it is important, in addition to civil society efforts, to encourage the participation of more states, so that the global scale of support for the Treaty is made continuously visible.

The SGI President puts forward an inspiring suggestion asking "ICAN, Mayors for Peace and others" to collaborate on creating a world map in which the municipalities supporting the Treaty are displayed in blue, the colour of the UN, to widely publicize civil society voices backing the Treaty, and make these voices heard at the venues of UN or other disarmament conferences.

Likewise, he proposes efforts to build an ever-broader constituency in favour of the Treaty, with a focus, among others, on scientific and faith communities, women and youth. Civil society, the SGI President adds, should continue to urge states to participate in the Treaty and, following its entry into force, encourage states not yet parties to the Treaty to attend the meetings of the state parties and review conferences as observers.

Ikeda believes that the worldwide network which ICAN, Mayors for Peace and others have built, should underline the global popular will for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

"The weight of this popular will can eventually bring about a change in policy by the nuclear-weapon and nuclear-dependent states and finally bring the era of nuclear weapons to an end." This, the SGI President says, is his "belief and heartfelt conviction." [IDN-InDepthNews - 28 February 2018]

Photo: Dr. Daisaku Ikeda. Credit: Seikyo Shimbun.

IDN is the flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate

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